“Spiderhead” ending changes short story

Cinema has experienced a literary science fiction moment. With both blockbuster film adaptations and TV adaptations of best-selling novels –Ready player one, dune, Beautiful new worldand, most ambitious, The three body problem (yet to come)—and recent adaptations of short stories—arrivalthe invisible manand now spider head– the big and small screens search the library for new source material. And don’t rely solely on the brilliant work of Philip K. Dick.

Netflix spider head is based on “Escape from Spiderhehead,” a short story by George Saunders that first appeared in The New Yorker in 2010. The story is a first-person account of an incarcerated man participating in laboratory experiments. The experiments become increasingly sadistic as he is forced to watch other test subjects endure painful injections known as Darkenfloxx™, causing them to temporarily endure extreme fear and suffering.

The tone of the story fits many of Saunders’ works – which often depict workers toiling in mostly callous capitalist environments. Like his other tales, Escape from Spiderhead exhibits an undercurrent of sincere humor in these mostly melancholic circumstances.

Netflix’s adaptation attempts to capture these complex tonalities by adding an easy-listening soundtrack to generally mixed results. Structured more like a single cinematic act than an entire film, the original story has been expanded to include more information about both incarcerated man Jeff and his fellow inmates. The film also alters Jeff’s crimes and relationship with those in the outside world, adding an incarcerated relationship. Although these changes did not require the filmmakers to change the ending of the story as well, the writers decided to forego the more tragic Saunders finale in favor of a conventional Hollywood escape. (The short story’s “escape” from the Spider’s Head is much less literal.)

This is how both properties handle the ending of the story.

Here’s how the Netflix version ends:

Spiderhead Chris Hemsworth as Abnesti in Spiderhead Cr Netflix © 2022

Courtesy of Netflix

After Jeff (Miles Teller) refuses to show Darkenfloxx the women he has slept with, he is asked to meet Darkenfloxx’s Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), his best friend and romantic partner.

Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), whom Jeff initially believes is testing each drug individually for different purposes – a love drug for love, a fear drug for fear, etc. – is actually testing a separate drug designed to be absolutes induce obedience. Before the Lizzy experiment, however, Jeff convinces Abnesti’s assistants to remove the obedience drug from his backpack and instead equip Abnesti with the drug. Jeff then uses the drug controls on Abnesti, who resists and still manages to get Darkenfloxx Lizzy.

Jeff saves Lizzy in time, but Abnesti has already escaped, turning the entire prison on Jeff and Lizzy, who are trying to escape. Meanwhile, Abnesti’s assistant has informed the authorities about the illegal experiments taking place on the island. They arrive in time to see Abnesti take off in a biplane. However, Abnesti’s backpack was damaged during his altercation with Jeff and he experiences a drug overload that causes him to crash against the island’s mountain.

Jeff and Lizzy manage to escape by boat.

Before they escape, Jeff learns that he has already been paroled and illegally held captive on the island, meaning that once he escapes, he can presumably go back to his life without fear of capture. The same goes for Lizzy.

How the short story ends

spiderhead nathan jones as rogan cr netflix © 2022

Courtesy of Netflix

Much of the film deviates from the short story. Jeff doesn’t kill his girlfriend and buddy in a car crash. Instead, he kills his buddy with a brick while they fight. Jeff has no romantic relationship inside or outside of prison (so there is no Lizzy); He calls his mother when he has the opportunity to use the phone.

While many of the experiments in the story are similar to the film, we don’t learn anything about Abnesti or the company. The obedience drug is used in the story but is not the main purpose of the experiments. (The experiments are more focused on developing a love drug.)

As in the film, the first forced Darkenfloxx drip for one of Jeff’s sexual partners ends in her death. However, the final scene of the story involves a second forced Darkenfloxx – but with a different sexual partner, not with a romantic interest. Jeff refuses. Abnesti then leaves the room to get permission to use the obedience drug on Jeff. Instead of allowing himself to eclipse another female, Jeff discovers his pack’s controls and throws them down a nearby manhole. His pack breaks down and unleashes all the drugs at once, including his own Darkenfloxx. The narrator then describes his final ascent.

“From the other side of the forest, birds, as if by mutual consent, left their trees and darted upwards. I joined them, flew among them, they didn’t recognize me as something separate from them, and I was happy, so happy because for the first time in years and forever and ever I hadn’t killed and never would kill.”

We believe Jeff Spiderhead escaped by suicide.

will there be one spider head 2?

By not killing Jeff, the filmmakers left open the possibility of a sequel. It is not yet known whether there will be one spider head 2. Netflix will likely be waiting for viewership to pour in like a busted Darkenfloxx villain.

We will update this story should anything change.

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